I am part of a tribe of people who uses an apothecarian collection of vinegars for more than just dressing greens or making pickles. We drink it. It may seem unappealing at first, but the mildly sweet, tangy jolt is addictive. A healthy glug of amber apple cider vinegar in a glass of water in the afternoon is crazy refreshingâ€”like instant grown-up lemonade without all the sugar.
But if that seems a little intense, donâ€™t worryâ€”I still think the best way to enjoy an invigorating kick of acid is in shrub form. These oddly named drinking vinegars have a long history, though they fell out of favor in the modern era. Now, theyâ€™re enjoying a revival among bartenders, farmers and all of their patrons and friends. The concentrated mixers are made by pulling the juice from fresh fruit and citrus with sugar, and cooking it in vinegar, which cuts the sweetness of the fruit and preserves the cordial. Take this concoction, pour it over ice and top it with soda water for the most elegant summer cooler you can imagine.
Shrubs are still a little hard to come by unless youâ€™re making them yourself, so I was thrilled to discover several versions at the Serendipity Organic Farms booth at the Live Oak farmers market. Owner Jamie Collins provides her organic fruit and herbs to field-to-glass cocktail queen Katie Blandin Shea of Bar Cart Cocktail Co. to create delicious botanical elixirs, like my favorite: a blueberry shrub with white sage, lime zest and white wine vinegar ($12 for an eight-ounce bottle). This lapis lazuli-colored shrub is not too sweet, its creamy berry flavor offset by delicate earthy sage. It pairs perfectly with equal parts Venus Spiritsâ€™ Gin Blend No. 1, soda and late-afternoon sunshine. A strawberry, chamomile and orange zest version with apple cider vinegar is also available, and Collins revealed that she and Blandin Shea will continue to collaborate on different combinations as the seasons change.
Another exciting opportunity to enter the world of shrubbery (Ni!) is at Mountain Feed & Farm Supplyâ€™s Summer Shrub Party, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22. Emily Han, author of Wild Drinks & Cocktails, will be teaching a free workshop on making shrubs from fresh produce and herbs. Shrub one, shrub all! mountainfeed.com.